“Mondays are a time when ZOOM is a place of transformation.” –Naomi Shafer
In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic due to the rapid spread of the highly contagious virus COVID-19. A few hours later, Clowns Without Borders cancelled its tour to Colombia. The global pandemic of COVID-19 radically shifted how CWB – USA works, but has not shifted our mission to promote resilience through laughter. We launched extensive online programming in April, as a response to our new global reality.
CWB has a three-year partnership with Diyar Theatre to provide clown training and capacity building for a cohort of 18 Palestinian clowns. While we are unable to continue with the scheduled intensive, we adapted the program to include weekly workshops for clowns in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria.
Due to travel restrictions (that predate coronavirus), Zoom is perhaps the only room in the world where this workshop could take place.
Why? Here’s a very simplified explanation: Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria border each other. Palestine is not recognized as a nation and Palestinians hold Palestinian Authority Passports. Travel within, and between, all of these countries (territories) is restricted.
Lebanon prohibits entry from anyone with Israeli stamps in their passport. Israel classifies Lebanon as an enemy state. Lebanese passport holders may only enter Israel with a pre-arranged visa and special permission, which prohibits entry to Palestinian territories. The workshop could not happen in Israel, Palestine, or Lebanon.
Israel and Syria do not have diplomatic relations, making travel between the two countries almost impossible. The workshop could not happen in Syria.
Theoretically, the workshop could happen in Jordan, but only with an exceptional number of visas, and the participants putting themselves at personal risk. Israel restricts Palestinians’ ability to travel. For a Palestinian Authority passport holder to get to Jordan, she needs both an exit visa from Israel and an entrance visa from Jordan.
Zoom is the only “place” where these workshop participants can gather. They remain burdened by unequal access to the internet, to data, to computers, to personal space, and, in many cases, to reliable electricity.
Mike Funt has previously worked with CWB in Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria.
Naomi is the Executive Director of CWB – USA and the co-director of 406 Cirque in Bozeman, MT.
Osama Awwad and Rami Khader
Osama and Rami are members of Diyar Theatre, based in Palestine. They joined CWB – USA on two previous tours to Palestine.